I know a pastor whose study contained a desk, a kneeler, and a couple of chairs.
The desk and its accompanying chair were well worn from hours of study, and most of the books that lined the shelves around the room had been opened and carefully studied.
The kneeler was not far from the desk and faced a window overlooking trees and rolling hills in a country setting. It also was well worn from many hours of use. Sometimes the pastor would study something that would lead him to praise God, give thanks, or feel a need to repent. He would quickly move from the desk to the kneeler.
In the study, there were also a couple of soft chairs often used for counseling, mentoring, or spiritual direction. It was not unusual after such sessions for the pastor to move to the desk to study questions and issues raised or to the kneeler to pray for the people and the situations of concern.
Study, piety, and ministry as pictured in the desk, kneeler, and chair are integrally related. If you remove one, damage is done to the other two.
- If you eliminate the desk, you lose depth in prayer (kneeler) and substance in ministry (chairs).
- If you eliminate the kneeler, you may have deep knowledge (desk) and consistent practice (chairs), but you will lack passion and joy, perhaps ending up with a cold, passionless legalism and moralism that will inevitably become weary in well doing.
- If you eliminate the chairs, you end up with theoretical thought (desk) or piety (kneeler) that makes little difference in peoples’ lives.
Knowing (study), feeling (piety), and doing (ministry) are integrally related. If you neglect any one of these (the desk, the kneeler, or the chairs), you will in effect lose all three.
One problem in the modern and post-modern world, including the church, is the failure to see the connection between what we do, what we think, and what we feel. In other words, we don’t understand the relationship between knowing, feeling, and doing. Thus, we fail to manifest wise, passionate practice that would demonstrate to the world the truth we profess.
In this post, I will tackle the critical place of Knowing (the desk).
How We Can Know Objective Reality
The Bible gives a solid basis for knowing and doing grounded in an infinite, personal God who exists and who reveals himself in scripture. The world God created is real and good. We are created in God’s image with a capacity to reason, feel, and act. We are also created to respond to a real God, respond to real people, and exercise dominion over a real creation. We are created to respond to reality. Sin certainly does distort our perception of reality, and we have limits on the extent of our knowledge; but there is nevertheless that which is true, good, and real objectively, and we can know it, at least in part.
Why We Are Given the Ability to Reason
The God-given ability to know is for a purpose. In Matthew 22:37, Christ calls us to love God with all of your heart, with all your soul, and with all of your mind. Unfortunately, not only is the mind devalued within the culture but also surprisingly within the church.
Perhaps some think that you can love God too much with your mind. Yet, can you love God too much with your heart or soul? I think not. The problem is not loving God too much with your mind but, perhaps, loving God with your heart and soul too little.
In 2 Corinthians 10:5, we are called to “destroy speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God” and “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” The first part of this verse emphasizes a more negative or critical task of refuting objections to faith or alternative systems of thought. The second part stresses a positive task of taking every thought captive to Christ.
I believe that a central problem with the church is that we have not emphasized loving God with our minds. The failure to pursue this task has led to a loss of influence in academia, media, science, government, and the arts. Books such as The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, No Place for Truth, and Passion for Truth document this problem in contemporary society. We need reformation individually, corporately, and culturally in this area.
Where Biblical Knowledge Leads: Intimacy and Obedience
It is important to note that biblical knowing involves more than mere cognition. It involves intimacy and responsibility.
The Hebrew word for knowing is Yatha. When Genesis speaks of Adam knowing his wife, it uses this word. This knowing is certainly more than sexual intimacy. In Psalm 1:6, it says that “the Lord knows the way of the righteous”. Notice it does not say earlier that the Lord knows the way of the wicked, although of course he knows about them. The phrase the “Lord knows” means cares for, gives approval to, has regard for, or loves the way of the righteous. In Matthew 7:23, Jesus says of those who say, “Lord, Lord” — “I never knew you,” although again, he knew about them. He didn’t know them in the sense of an intimate personal relationship. Our knowing is to lead to personal intimacy with God.
It is also interesting that the Greek word for “hear” is Akuo, while the Greek word for “obey” is Hupakuo—which literally means “to hyper hear” or really hear. So, to really hear is to obey. There are those who hear yet fail to understand. There are those who see yet don’t perceive. No wonder the biblical writers often say, “Let him who has an ear to hear, let him hear.” It is one thing to allow a truth to go into one ear and out the other. It is another to allow God’s word to go into your ear, down into your heart, and out into your hands and feet.
Let’s dedicate ourselves to the study of intimately knowing God in a way that results in enjoying and glorying him (feeling) and happily laboring in the work of his kingdom (doing).